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AHC Gamechanger: Ned Patterson

Ned Patterson, Ph.D., D.V.M.

As some of you may know, the University of Minnesota population is quite familiar with epilepsy.  Head football coach Jerry Kill has suffered seizures after football games at various points the past few seasons. Though he recovers quickly, the events are still frightening.

This complex condition is one that the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Ned Patterson, Ph.D., D.V.M., seeks to dissect and understand in canines in order to improve treatment for humans.

“Epilepsy is common in only two species: humans and dogs,” Patterson said. ”Depending on the breed, one to five percent of dogs will have epilepsy or recurrent seizures in their lifetime. That equates to about 2.1 million dogs in the U.S.”

Patterson is working on an early detection device that can help dog owners predict seizures before they occur. Currently, the device is being tested on four dogs in Minnesota and three dogs in Pennsylvania. He likes to compare the device’s characteristics to those on weather radars.

“It’s like trying to predict a tornado and we’re developing the detection technology,” said Patterson.

The device, which consists of two brain implanted strips and a handheld electronic box, essentially has three lights. The first indicates “good weather” or good health in the dog. The next indicates a “tornado watch” or tells the owner a seizure is possible. And of course, the third is a “tornado warning,” or it is likely that a seizure is about to hit very soon.

The device is also being tested on humans. Fifteen participants in Australia with reoccurring seizures recently underwent surgery to implant the strips on their brain to send data to the lighted belt pack. It was reported that the device was helping their quality of life, especially when it came to going to work and enjoying hobbies without interruption.

As the research and development continues, Patterson hopes that the device will lead to a decline in the amount of drugs people need to stop seizures.

“Instead of taking long acting drugs twice a day, every day, maybe a short acting drug only when the seizure is about to happen will suffice,” Patterson said. “That is our ultimate goal.”

Though Ned Patterson has a passion for canine health, he is also aware of the potential they hold to improve life for people. Eventually, if the device is approved for widespread use in the U.S., millions of people will be able to schedule their life around their seizures, allowing them to recover in the privacy of their own homes. With these goals in mind, Ned Patterson truly stands out as a Gamechanger.

  1. March 5, 2013 12:12 pm | Sue Kirchoff Says:

    Ned was also a gamechanger a few years ago, when he was part of a team that identified a gene in Labrador retrievers that’s highly associated with the syndrome of exercise-induced collapse. The team determined that up to 30 percent of Labrador retrievers are carriers of the mutation, and they developed a genetic test to indicate whether dogs have the normal or mutated forms of the gene. The test is now available through the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory. Great work!

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